Rugby’s Eligibility Laws


In sports it is normal for a sportsmen and women to switch allegiance from one country to the other but it is worst in the sports of Rugby. The lax rules on nationality are beginning to create serious controversies amongst lovers of the game and rugby playing nations. This is as 134 of the players selected to play in the world cup which started in Japan few days were not born in the countries they are representing according to a study publishing by Betway.

During the world cup in 2015, there were 125 foreign born players but the 2019 world cup has added nine more foreign born players to that number. A Canadian born and raised in Canada is in Ireland’s squad for the world cup, a Scotsman is also on Canada’s book. Several South Africans are in the squads of the likes of Australia, England, Ireland and the likes.

It is obvious that countries are now taking advantage of the ease with which rugby players can move to a country, reside in that country for a period of three years and start playing as a national of the said country. This is so because the Rugby laws permits it as players only need to have lived in a country for a period of just three years before they are able to represent such a country in international Rugby tournaments.

Japan for example have as much as 16 foreign born players in their squad which is more than half of the 31 man squad. Of this 16, Michael Leitch who is the captain of Japan’s rugby team was born in New Zealand and should ordinarily be representing Japan.

However, everything will change from the 2020 season as Rugby world vice president Agustin Pichot is driving a change in the eligibility laws which will see players only been allowed to represent a country if they have been playing in that country for at least 5 years.

This will surely change the face of rugby and will affect a couple of teams who heavily depend on foreign born players. For instance Japan who have more foreign born players in their world cup squad than home grown ones will have to from the end of 2020 season start to brood more home grown players which could initially affect their performance in international rugby tournaments.

Aside Japan, the likes of Tonga, Samoa, Scotland, the USA and Australia who also have a large amount of foreign born players in their squads are likely to be affected by the new change in laws when it eventually happen. It is however important to note that Tonga, Samoa and Fiji ( who also have a good number of foreign born players in their world cup squad ) may actually not feel the impact of the new change.

This is because most of the players in the squads of the aforementioned countries have family ties with the country and are not just mercenaries. These countries ( Figi, Tonga and Samoa ) will be able to call upon most of their foreign born players because dual citizenship will still be allowed even when the new law comes into play.

Betway have analysed the 134 foreign born rugby players at the world cup and have been it into an infographic. Reproduced below is the said infographics.

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